Modified Keto Diet

Many people (especially us older folks) have a hard time understanding how the popular keto diet can be healthy. Most of us have been warned about cardiovascular disease, so a high fat diet seems contrary to what we have been taught for years. The good news is, there are many versions of a modified keto diet. I have created one for myself by cutting way back on refined carbohydrates like sugar, potatoes, rice, bread and pasta. I was diagnosed with an allergy to wheat years ago, so already switched to gluten free bread and pasta, but even they contain not so good for you carbs.

Food items like pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, crackers and snacks contain high amounts of net carbs, so I have learned to avoid them. A great alternative to pasta and rice is cauliflower. You can purchase it (conveniently) already cut up in “pearls” (like the bags I buy, pictured below) or you can cut up a fresh head yourself.

add cauliflower to your modified keto diet for low net carbs
cauliflower pearls have low net carbs, great for a modified keto diet!

As indicated on their label, these pearls of cauliflower contain a mere 2 grams of net carbs (4 total carbs minus 2 fiber) per 3/4 cup. This is a huge difference from pasta or rice. For example, pasta contains 62 grams of net carbs per 3/4 cup, brown rice contains 22 grams per 1/3 cup and white rice contains 32 grams per 1/3 cup. When you are limiting your net carbs to 25 grams per day, those numbers are quite significant. These cauliflower pearls can even be incorporated (with cheese) into a pizza dough!

Another great substitute for the high carb perils of pasta and rice is zucchini spirals. They too can be purchased already cut up, but you can buy them whole and cut them up yourself too if desired. I’m all about convenience. If an ingredient is easy to prepare, I will be much more likely to use it in a meal. Spaghetti squash can also be used as a substitute for starchy pasta.

I also make sure I have lots of crunchy salad ingredients on hand to throw together a quick lunch option. Leafy greens, broccoli slaw, seeds, avocado, tomatoes and cucumbers (all contain low net carbs) as well as a variety of low carb salad dressings are mainstays in my fridge. These choices of good carbs have always been staples in my diet, often incorporated into a morning smoothie.

For calories formerly taken up by bad carbs in my daily diet, I have increased my intake of fats, although I stick to good fats. Yes, believe it or not, there is such a thing as good fats. I don’t like the way so many animal fats (processed and fatty meats, butter, cream, lots of cheese) recommended on the original keto diet make me feel. Constipation and stomach cramps are no fun!

Therefore, to get my fat macros (that’s the keto term), I consume more plant based omega 3s. Fats like avocado, olive oil, almonds, almond milk, flax seeds and coconut oil are my favourites. It is easy to replace the fats suggested in keto menus with the healthier versions. For example, I substitute almond milk for full fat cream and olive oil for butter.

My protein intake remains about the same. Protein consumption is important to retain muscle mass, especially for post menopausal women like myself. I have always leaned (pun intended) towards lean meats and fish for sources of protein, so that aspect needed no modification.

For four weeks now I have been following this modified keto version. I have lost a few pounds, but weight loss was not my primary goal. More importantly, I have noticed increased muscle tone in my abdominal area. These are the muscles I have not seen in many years, not since before my kids were born. That is impressive (I think) since those four weeks included one week of vacation (lots of margaritas) as well as the holiday season during which tempting goodies were hard to resist.

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Salads work on any diet

Are you trying a new diet and having a hard time finding things you are allowed to eat? Most diets, especially the currently popular keto diet, restrict carbohydrates, but salads work well if you include the right kind of carbohydrates.

The good news about salad related carbs is that they contain lots of fiber which means their “net carbs” (what you actually count on keto) are negligible. To calculate net carbs, subtract the grams of fiber from the grams of total carbohydrates indicated on the labels.

For example, the broccoli slaw I love on my salads to add extra crunchiness displays this label:

brocolli slaw contains low net carbs, works great on salads
brocolli, cabbage, and kale slaw, low net carbs, great on salads

You can see the total carbohydrates in 1 cup of this slaw is 6 grams, but the fiber is 3 grams, so the net carbs are 3 grams. Considering you might add one half cup of this to greens on your salad, that is very few net carbs! Of course, you could also eat this slaw like you would traditional coleslaw.

Broccoli by itself has even less net carbs (4 grams of carbs minus 3 grams of fiber per 1.25 cup equals 1 gram of net carbs) That means broccoli would be a great keto approved option for a side dish at dinner. Or cut up on your salad if you don’t like the slaw that I use.

The salad in a bag (romaine, carrots and cabbage) that my husband likes has a net carbs value of 2 grams per 2.5 cups (4 total carbs minus 2 fiber). I prefer my salad base to contain spinach and kale however, which have even fewer grams of net carbs. I also like cucumber, avocado, flax seed and cheese on my salad…

Ingredients for salads that are low net carbs and healthy fats
brocolli slaw, cucumbers, avacado and cheese, low net carbs and healthy fats

The cheese (shredded Tex-Mex in this case), avocado, flax seed and salad dressing contain the fat necessary on this keto diet. I top the salad with a creamy, roasted garlic and Greek yogurt salad dressing from (my favourite) Renee’s line of all natural, no preservatives added products. The assembled lunch plate looks like this.

I don’t really count the net carbs as they are so negligible in a salad like this. These carbs though (as opposed to the bad ones) are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, a fact that I think is very important to overall health.

Protein is accounted for in the broccoli and cheese as well as the Greek yogurt based dressing and lax seeds. A sliced hard boiled egg or cooked chicken would also be great sources of additional protein.

Concoct your own salad, the variations are endless!

Keto diet: how to fuel weight loss

keto diet can fuel weight loss
less carbs, more fat to fuel weight loss on keto diet. Photo from Pexels

By now everyone has no doubt heard of the keto diet. Similar to lots of other diets, carbohydrates are restricted. What makes keto different however is the considerable fat allowance. And that increased fat intake is what confuses most of us. How can we lose fat (weight) if we eat more fat?

The answer is (reportedly) that a diet high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates keeps your body in a state of ketosis. Hence the name keto. So, what is ketosis and why is it good for weight loss? It is defined as a metabolic state in which ketones (acids) are produced when stored fat instead of carbohydrates (sugar) is burned for energy. This happens naturally every time we fast. You know that “morning breath” we all wake up with? That’s caused by ketones that are produced because we technically fast while we sleep.

So basically, the keto diet encourages your body to burn stored fat by decreasing the amount of carbohydrates available for fuel. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, there may be annoying side effects to the process. Like bad breath, initial fatigue (as your body adjusts) and constipation (from increased fat ingestion). As the fat begins to melt off your body however, you may find the side effects easy to deal with.

The constipation can be alleviated by adding more fiber to your diet. The fat your are consuming in large amounts does not have to be saturated fat like cheese, fatty meats and butter. And they should definitely not be trans fats like margarine and processed vegetable (corn, sunflower, canola) oils. Instead, choose unsaturated fats such as olive oil, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, unsweetened almond milk, seeds and nuts for the majority of your fat intake.

The bad breath is easy to deal with by chewing (sugarless) gum and brushing your teeth more frequently. Drinking more water and adding electrolytes to your diet will combat the initial fatigue.

The keto diet is not a quick fix, but more like a lifestyle change. The hardest part will be restocking your pantry and rethinking your grocery choices. Throw out the pasta, bread, and packaged foods loaded with sugar and other carbohydrates. Keto meals will require more planning since convenient and fast foods are not on the menu.